Innisbrook Resort director of golf Jay Overton could become even busier in the next few years. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem slipped at a news conference Tuesday and said, "Well, help me out here. I thought we announced Tampa. Did we announce Tampa?'' when asked about tournament sponsorships. So it is just a matter of time before the PGA signs a multiyear deal with Transitions Optical Inc. of Pinellas Park to keep the former PODS Championship at the Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor.
The LPGA Tour has visited Innisbrook's Island Course. And Overton said he is trying to lure the Nationwide Tour's fall championship.
"I think Tim Finchem slipped up and let (the PGA tournament deal) out,'' Overton said. "So we'll definitely keep our March date. Everything else will be evaluated. Sheila Johnson (CEO of Salamander Entertainment, Inc., which owns Innisbrook Resort) has said that she would love to bring an LPGA event to Tampa, so that's one of the many opportunities we'll look at.
"And we were very close to hosting the Nationwide Championship last year due to the fires in California. We got the course ready in three days. We want to do whatever we can to bring some attention to the Island Course, which we think is right up there with Copperhead.''
Overton also brought up the possibility of expanding the 8-year-old PGA tournament's field and using both courses during the first two rounds.
"Possibility in big, bold letters,'' Overton said.
The Island Course, which was renovated last year, will host a U.S. Amateur qualifier in July, and it held a national American Junior Golf Association tournament over Easter. And it was the site of a U.S. Open regional qualifier on Wednesday. Garrett Willis of Knoxville, Tenn., led five qualifiers with 68. D.A. Points (69) of Ocoee, Joey Lamielle (71) of Sarasota, Garrett Frank (72) of Youngstown, Ohio, and Michael Hebert (72) of Orlando also advanced to the sectional qualifier, which will be held on June 2 at 13 different sites.
Rodney Page can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8810.